DOYLESTOWN – Bucks County Commissioner Gene DiGirolamo recalled a panicked phone call he received from a friend looking for help for a man on the edge of homelessness last month.
“Not everybody in Bucks County is living in a $500,000 house,” said DiGirolamo (R) at the Wednesday commissioners meeting, where he also pushed for an increase in the minimum wage in Pennsylvania from the current $7.35 an hour and noted he hopes to work on that later this year. “There is a lot of homelessness, poverty and hunger, even more so now with the pandemic.”
The January 20th meeting mostly tasked commissioners with signing off on contracts for the coming year, but as with everything in the age of COVID-19, there was a shift to the kind of emergency funds that far more county residents need than ever before. Community Development Block grants, which county housing and community development officials said usually run around $2 million, are up to $4 million for this year. Funds are being set aside for job training and placement, emergency shelter, legal services and rent help for those who might be facing eviction.
“We have been able to help roughly 500 to 600 households avoid eviction since July,” said Jeff Fields, county housing director. “We are hoping to help many more. At this point, we are trying to help those who need it the very most.”
Noting that the process takes time, Fields asked that residents who know eviction is likely, call “so we can get the process started.”
“If you are a landlord and know that it is likely there is a danger of eviction, we ask you to urge your tenants to call us,” the housing director said.
The county housing hotline: 1-800-810-4434, is staffed seven days a week, said Fields.
“I am sure as this pandemic continues, those numbers will go up from 500 households,” said County Chair Diane Ellis Marseglia (D).
Among the contracts approved by county commissioners Wednesday:
— $451,200 to Bucks County Community College for job training for those affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, plus another $260,000 to BCCC for career training in industrial maintenance and metalwork programs. Another $127,000 was set aside for emergency shelter services, $288,245 for rapid job placement and support services and just under $98,000 for legal aid to those impacted by COVID-19.
— Dearborn, MI-based Educational Data Systems received just under $1.9 million for programs, activities and job training for the unemployed and underemployed under the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act contract. Another $520,000 was set aside for employment and training programs for those currently receiving temporary assistance for needy families (TANF) and $173,000 for EDS to run CareerLink facilities in Bucks County.
For tenants concerned about eviction, the Bucks County Housing Hotline is 1-800-810-4434. Residents throughout PA can call 211 for help with eviction.
The next meeting for the Bucks County Commissioners is slated for February 3 at 10:30 a.m.